Leclerc takes Spanish GP pole for Ferrari after spin
Charles Leclerc withstood enormous pressure after a spin on his first lap in final qualifying to bounce back and take pole at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver pulled out a superb performance to demote title rival Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to second.
The world champion was fastest on the first laps but suffered a loss of power on his final lap that meant he was unable to respond to Leclerc’s pace.
George Russell was fourth for Mercedes’ best performance of the season.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was sixth fastest, behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz was third in the second Ferrari at his home race.
Russell was 0.643 seconds off pole position after upgrades for this race moved the team forwards and reduced the aerodynamic bouncing that has plagued them all season.
Mercedes had looked more competitive through the weekend than at any race so far this season, but in the end they were not in the fight at the very front, even if they can be pleased to have beaten one car from the top two teams.
The Ferrari drivers and Verstappen were out of reach, though, and Leclerc underlined his status as the qualifying king of F1 this season with his fourth pole position in six races.
When he spun entering the final chicane on his first run in the top-10 shootout he made life much more difficult for himself than it needed to be – his first lap already looked set to put him at the top of the times.
But if he felt any pressure it did not show in his driving, and his final lap was remarkable.
“I feel good,” said Leclerc, who leads Verstappen by 19 points in the championship. “It was a very, very difficult session, especially in Q3 as I did a mistake in the first run and then I only had one lap.
“It went extremely well. I had a bit of a moment but I made it stick. It was a very good lap and the car was amazing too, so very, very happy.”
Verstappen, winner of the last two races, said he did not know whether he would have been able to beat Leclerc had he not run into problems with his DRS overtaking aid not opening on his final run.
“To be on the front row is a good performance but I would like to have gone for that final lap,” he said, admitting that Red Bull had struggled to find a balance in the car this weekend.
As has been the case for much of the season, the top two were in a league of their own – Sainz was 0.416secs adrift of his team-mate in third place. (BBC Sport)